Mykel Nahorniak – Co-founder and CEO of Localist

I dedicate full days to specific areas of the business during the week, be it product, marketing, sales, support, finance, etc. I try to remain as strategic in thinking as possible, working backwards from daily deliverables to the high-level vision, to ensure company goals are easy for everyone to understand.

Mykel Nahorniak is the co-founder and CEO of Localist, the industry’s only provider of an interactive online calendaring platform for the marketing professional. In this role, Myke is responsible for the evolution and overall strategy for the company and the Localist platform. In addition, he heads the development team in conceptualizing new features, leading creative development of site design, usability and overall branding. His past experience includes serving as Chief Creative Officer at Betanews, Inc., managing IT projects at The Baltimore Sun and leading web development teams at media companies, non-profits and PR firms.

Myke was a computer information systems student before helping to launch Baltimore’s first co-working space and co-founding Localist in 2008. Myke is currently a mentor at Betamore, a Baltimore incubator. He is passionate about all things web and business, media, and cycling. Myke lives in Washington D.C. with his wife Mary and greyhound named Senna.

Where did the idea for Localist come from?

My co-founder and I got tired of finding out about events after they happened because the information about the event wasn’t even online. We created a tool to allow event organizers to quickly and easily publish events online for easy discovery.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I dedicate full days to specific areas of the business during the week, be it product, marketing, sales, support, finance, etc. I try to remain as strategic in thinking as possible, working backwards from daily deliverables to the high-level vision, to ensure company goals are easy for everyone to understand.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We create a safe environment for anyone to bring ideas to the table. We’ve gotten great sales ideas from the development team, and great product ideas from the sales team. If you have an idea, there’s only one requirement: you have to back it up with why it makes sense. That criterion usually ensures that it’s thought out well enough to have legs. We bounce it around the room and see if it sticks. If it does, it becomes the next priority. Urgency is what makes ideas come to life, so executing in that moment is critical.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The Internet of Things. There are still so many aspects of our lives that are completely offline. When an object becomes “connected,” it’s available to the world. The more things that connect, the more “The Internet” becomes part of the fabric of humanity, facilitating a more understanding, tolerant global community in the process.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Not working long hours. Doing something outside of the company ensures you always have a fresh perspective when you jump back in. “Doing” is important, but giving that action another beat of thought can be the difference between an idea succeeding or failing.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I joined a company as a data entry person because I liked computers. It was brainless, unrelenting work. I quickly changed roles, serving as the main database administrator, not because the company told me to, but because I figured out how to fix a problem one of their database servers was having. I learned that the only person who can tell you what you want is you. Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Nothing. I’ve made a ton of mistakes, but who I am today is built on that foundation. Changing anything would only mean today would be different, not necessarily better.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Ask “why?”

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Remembering to think big-picture. Early on, it’s very easy to get caught in the weeds. Months can go by with you focused on a small aspect of a small feature in your product, completely stalling more important business items. Having a strategy to think strategically (ha!) helps prevent that from happening.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

The original idea for Localist, which was a “build it and they will come,” ad-driven business model. We overcame it by having the courage to shelve the original idea and listen to where our customers wanted us to go.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Automated wedding planning software. I’ve been happily married for two years now, but I remember the planning and logistics occupying every waking moment of my brain for almost a year.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I’m Canadian!

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

These days I’m really excited about It’s changed the way we do one-on-one meetings with the staff, making them very fruitful, productive conversations.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. Business books are typically nauseatingly prescriptive, and they always paint an unrealistic ideal portrait of the real world. Not so in Horowitz’s book.

My favorite quote: “Every time I read a management or self-help book, I find myself saying, ‘That’s fine, but that wasn’t really the hard thing about the situation.’ The hard thing isn’t setting a big, hairy, audacious goal. The hard thing is laying people off when you miss the big goal. The hard thing isn’t hiring great people. The hard thing is when those ‘great people’ develop a sense of entitlement and start demanding unreasonable things. The hard thing isn’t setting up an organizational chart. The hard thing is getting people to communicate within the organization that you just designed. The hard thing isn’t dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare.”

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Stella Adler. Despite being an acting coach, her insights on life and the human condition really helped me get out of the “every problem requires a technology solution” bubble.

Tim Krabbé. An obscure author of an obscure book: The Rider. It’s a simple tale of a competitive cyclist in a bike race, but is the best description of our “lizard brain” put into words.

Elon Musk. A CEO whose unapologetic vision and determination rivals most who have come before him.


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